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Dirty Work

We’re one day away from the Oscars and that means this is the second to last entry for the 12 Days of Oscar over here.  Today’s entry is the third in the series that is nominated for an Oscar this year.  American Hustle is nominated for ten Oscars:  Best Picture, Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Directing, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Production Design.  American Hustle is only the second movie to be nominated in all four acting categories since 1981- the first being last year’s Silver Linings Playbook.  

When I saw this in theaters, I knew two things were going to happen: this movie was going to be in the round-up, and I was going to make chicken piccata.  When a dish of the thinnest chicken, announced by Mayor Carmine Polito’s (Jeremy Renner) wife Dolly (Elisabeth Rohm) as “the piccata of the gods,” passes across the screen it’s hard to disagree with the assessment.  The trick to having amazing piccata, it seems, is to get the chicken as thin as possible.  This is easy to accomplish by slicing the chicken breast in half horizontally (butterfly it), and then pound it with a meat mallet until it’s as thin as it can get.

chicken piccata

Chicken Piccata

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts (about 1 lb.)
  • 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1/4 C. dry white wine
  • 1/2 C. chicken stock
  • 2 small lemons, juiced
  • 1/4 C. chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed

Directions:

Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally, then pound them with a mallet or heavy skillet until they’re as thin as you can make them without them tearing.

Combine the flour and Parmesan in a shallow dish or pie plate.

Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and shake off the excess.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil and 1 Tbsp. of the butter.

When the butter foams, add the chicken (in batches if necessary) and cook for a few minutes on each side.

Remove chicken and keep warm.

Add the wine, chicken stock, and lemon juice to the skillet.

Stir, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the skillet, and cook until the sauce reduces and thickens.

Add a pinch of salt, the parsley, and capers.

Stir in the remaining butter until the butter melts.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Source: adapted from Buddy Valastro, as seen on Mia Cucina

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Jai Ho

With today’s last installment of the Winter Olympics feature comes the next installment of the 12 Days of Oscar.  Today’s film is the first in this year’s series that won an Oscar.  The 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for ten Oscars and won eight including Best Picture.  Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of a contestant on a game show similar to Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and exceeds expectations.   In the film, Jamal Malik answers the questions so well that he is interrogated, revealing through flashbacks both his childhood and his ties to the answers as each one is linked to an event in his life.

Chicken tikka masala is to Indian cuisine what chicken Parmigiana is to Italian cuisine.  It’s simple, comforting, and not really all that authentic.  In keeping with the comparisons between the American game show and its Indian counterpart, I decided to put the tikka masala on the menu.  Chicken tikka masala is a great food to start with if you’re new to Indian food.  Chunks of chicken cooked in a spiced tomato yogurt sauce served over rice are great whether you’re a fan of Indian cuisine or completely new to it.

chicken tikka masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt
  • ground coriander
  • cumin, to taste
  • 1/2 C. plain yogurt
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 approx. 2 inch piece fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 3 Tbsp. Garam Masala (I bought this at Penzey’s)
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 C. heavy cream
  • 2 C. Basamati rice

Directions:

Season the chicken breasts with some kosher salt, then sprinkle on coriander and cumin.

Coat the chicken breasts completely with the plain yogurt.

Set the chicken on a metal cooling rack over a foil-lined baking sheet.

Place the chicken 10-12 inches below a broiler for 5-7 minutes per side, watching carefully so the chicken isn’t completely charred.  It should have slightly blackened edges.

Remove the chicken from the oven.

In a large skillet melt 2 Tbsp. of butter over medium-high heat.

Add the diced onion and saute until slightly browned.

Add the garlic and ginger to the onion, along with about 1 Tbsp. salt.

Add the Garam Masala and stir to combine.

Add the can of diced tomatoes.

Continue to cook and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze it.

Add the sugar and stir, then let the mixture simmer on medium for about 5 minutes.

Cook the Basamati rice according to package directions.

After the sauce has simmered, add in the heavy cream.

Chop the chicken breasts into chunks and stir them into the sauce.

Stir until heated through and serve the chicken mixture over rice.

Source:  The Pioneer Woman

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Then Came Lo Mein

I feel like the summer just started and here we are approaching Labor Day.  I’m looking forward to fall getting here, because then we have some breathing room in the schedule again.  As much as I love simple grilled dinners, salads, or cookouts with friends all summer long,  I’m ready to be back in jeans and boots and comfy sweaters hovering over pots of soup and pulling roasts out of the oven.  Quick and simple dinners have been critical lately.  Just because a dinner is quick and simple doesn’t have to mean that it’s boring.

Lo mein is anything but boring.  On the rare occasions that we order Chinese takeout anymore, lo mein has always been a huge hit.  Using a frozen stir fry vegetable mixture helps to make chicken lo mein a quick weeknight meal.  No, it isn’t the same as cutting up all of those vegetables and sauteing them to perfection, but it does mean that we can have lo mein at home faster than we can order it and drive over to the local takeout place.   Really, this is marinated cooked chicken stir fried with steamed frozen stir fry vegetable mix, tossed with spaghetti and a tasty sauce.  What this lo mein lacks in authenticity, it makes up for with flavor.  The ginger is subtle, and there’s just enough heat to keep it interesting.

chicken lo mein

Quick Chicken Lo Mein

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 C. chicken broth
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil, divided
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8-10 oz. chicken), cut into strips
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bag frozen mixed stir fry vegetables (my mixture included broccoli, red peppers, water chestnuts, baby corn, and mushrooms)

Directions:

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions until al dente, then drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken broth, and red pepper flakes, then set aside.

Sprinkle the chicken strips with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cook the frozen stir fry vegetables according to package directions and set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat.

Add 1 tsp. of the oil, then add the chicken and cook, stirring, until no longer pink in the center.

Remove the chicken from the wok and set aside.

Heat another tsp. of the oil, then add the cooked vegetables, stirring to coat the vegetables with the oil.

Add the chicken back into the wok and stir to combine with the vegetables.

Add the cooked spaghetti to the wok, and stir to combine.

Pour the soy sauce mixture into the wok and stir to thoroughly combine.

Stir until the mixture is heated through, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

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Wild Andrea

Effects from the first storm of the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season, tropical storm Andrea, have arrived here in the Northeast.  As I type this, it looks like the storm is leaving the Charleston, South Carolina area and headed up toward Maryland.  The rain has been steadily coming down since last night and should keep up until Saturday morning.  Here in Southern Connecticut, we’re being threatened with about four inches of rain and some high winds later on tonight.  Four inches of rain is about a month’s worth, so the fact that it’s all scheduled to fall today has led to flood warnings.  We’re prepared over here, and I’m hoping that my East Coast readers stay safe during the storm.  I’m going to make a wild guess here even though it’s still early in the day that O’s baseball game tonight is cancelled.  Just a hunch.  I’m sure he’ll be disappointed, this would have been the final game of the season.

The good news about baseball season ending is that it means we’re one step closer to summer vacation.  It also means one less practice to schedule life around, until soccer season also ends and then there are no practices while we enjoy the summer.  Summer means I don’t like to heat up the kitchen more than what’s absolutely necessary to provide nourishment.  While we’re lucky and have central air conditioning, it’s easier to just not crank up the oven and test the limits.  Also, and I’ve heard I’m not in the minority here, in the summer I find that I don’t really want heavy meals all that often.  I crave simplicity and lighter meals, things that leave me with more time to be outside enjoying the nice weather or getting things done.  I love my crock pot for this very reason.   Not only does it churn out great comfort food meals, it’s perfect for cooking simpler things when you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, or just don’t want to work up a sweat preparing dinner.  I made this crock pot teriyaki chicken, and it couldn’t have been easier.  The chicken turns out flavorful and tender, and way better than any take-out I’ve tried.  I was originally going to cut the recipe in half, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  I think this was even better reheated for lunch the next day, and that’s saying something because it was amazing for dinner the night it was made.

crock pot chicken teriyaki

Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 12 thighs), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 3/4 C. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. dried ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 4 1/2 tsp. cold water

Directions:

Place the chicken into a 4 quart crock pot.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and pepper.

Pour the soy sauce mixture over the chicken.

Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, until the chicken is tender.

To thicken the sauce, combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the crock pot and stir to combine completely.  Allow the mixture to cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes longer, until sauce has thickened.

Serve over cooked rice.

Source: adapted from Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen

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Tender Lover

We’re slowly returning to normalcy at our house.  Being away from home all weekend is a break from the routine, then the kids had Monday off from school making Tuesday more like a Monday.  Now it’s Wednesday and I still feel like we’re all a little sluggish from this weekend’s excitement.  I mentioned yesterday that our weekend included the graduation ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  The unseasonably cold and rainy weather did not stop us from celebrating Lane’s nephew’s accomplishment or that of his classmates, even though it meant dressing in four layers of clothing.  It was moving to see all of the graduates from the time they marched onto the field to the time they tossed their hats into the air.  There is so much tradition present at this ceremony that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but if you asked the kiddos they’d tell you that going onto the field to catch the hats tossed by the graduates was their favorite part.  We were unable to stay after the ceremony to see Lane’s nephew receive his commission into the United States Marine Corps because the kiddos really needed to get warm.  After they quietly and respectfully sat through the ceremony, I was happy to oblige that request.

We visited the nearby Palisades mall to get warm and have some lunch and to pass a little time in the rainy weather before heading to a hotel for the night.  I would rate the mini corn dogs and huge slice of cheesecake the kids devoured at The Cheesecake Factory as placing in their top five favorite things about this weekend.  Our visit to the Lego store, where M insisted on getting her cousin and his bride a Lego bride and groom, “because they are building their love!” is up there as well.  I’m amazed they got any sleep at all considering the high level of excitement they had about being in a wedding the next day.  Saturday was proof of a few things.  First, my mom was right when she always told us to dress in layers.  Second, always have a plan B.  We had initially planned to spend the afternoon visiting a nearby theme park or enjoying the hotel’s outdoor pool but that didn’t pan out due to the weather.  The kiddos were none the wiser and thought we were the most brilliant parents ever for bringing them to the mall.  Third, there is a crazy level of excitement when you tell two kids that dinner will be pizza in a hotel room with the Yankees game on the TV, so never overlook the little things.

Although we had a lot of fun this weekend, it’s nice to be home in our own beds and eating dinner at the kitchen table again.  Easy dinners have still been key, because part of getting back into the swing of things is getting the homework done and planning for soccer or baseball practice (though luckily both were rained out yesterday so we were off the hook for the night).  These sun-dried tomato chicken tenders were a dinner I enjoyed with Lane on a night when I was pet sitting last week, but they fit the bill for a quick weeknight dinner.  Chicken tenders cook up in no time, and they can be seasoned just as easily as any other piece of chicken.  Ten minutes to cook the chicken and a few minutes to toss together the sun-dried tomato sauce are all you need to have a quick and healthy meal.

sun dried tomato chicken tender

Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Tenders

Ingredients:

  • 12 boneless, skinless chicken tenders
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped or pureed (I pureed mine)
  • 1/4 C. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 C. chicken broth
  • 1/4 C. white wine (optional, but recommended)
  • 1/4 C. cream
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.

Sprinkle the chicken tenders evenly with salt and pepper on both sides.

Add the chicken tenders to the skillet and cook for 4 minutes per side, until cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pan, cover it to keep it warm, and set it aside while you make the sauce.

Put the butter into the skillet and heat until it melts.

Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and stir well.

Whisk in the flour, and continue to whisk for 2 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and wine and whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth.

Add the cream and whisk for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken.

Stir in the basil, then add the chicken back into the pan.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes to warm everything, or longer if you want the sauce to become more of a coating (this is what I did here, but I’ve done it both ways and enjoyed it equally).

Makes 4 servings.

Source: adapted from Little B Cooks

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Easy Peasy

Earlier this week, I volunteered to help O’s kindergarten class with their “Sink or Float” water project.  The class was organized into groups and moved from station to station completing various activities to teach them about the science behind things that sink and things that float.  It was a fun day, and I’m not-so-secretly glad that I didn’t get assigned to man the clay boat station.  At my station, the students were given various objects and had to make predictions about whether they would sink or float, then record the actual results.  For the two hours I was in the classroom, one phrase was repeated over and over again by the kindergarteners, “Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.”  Of course, that phrase is now stuck in my head.

“Easy peasy lemon squeezy” recipes are among some of my favorite.  It doesn’t get much more easy peasy than this (I would include “lemon squeezy,” but the lemon for this isn’t squeezed).  Chicken drumsticks are always a popular dinner in our house.  O exclaims “I love chicken sticks!” every time he sees them leaving the grill and headed to the table.  One man’s “drummie” is another man’s “chicken stick,” apparently.  Lane has been very into grilling everything on his new charcoal grill, but a gas grill or indoor grilling on a grill pan works fine as well.  While chicken drumsticks covered in barbecue sauce and grilled are a warm-weather staple for me, I love to change it up sometimes and coat the drumsticks with a rub instead.  This tarragon rub works great on the drumsticks, and would be great on chicken breasts if drumsticks aren’t your thing.

taragon grilled chicken drumsticks

Tarragon Rub Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon (optional but recomended)
  • 1 1/2- 2 lbs. (about 6 large-ish) chicken drumsticks (skin can be removed if preferred)

Directions:

Heat a grill (charcoal or gas) to 450 degrees, or heat a grill pan indoors over medium-high heat.

To make the rub, combine the onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, tarragon, salt, pepper, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Pat the chicken drumsticks dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle 1/2 of the rub mixture evenly over the chicken drumsticks, then flip the drumsticks and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 of the rub mixture over the chicken.

Evenly coat the chicken with the sprinkled rub mixture, using clean hands (wash hands immediately after handling raw chicken!).

When the grill is heated, place the drumsticks onto the grate (or heated grill pan).

Flip the chicken every 7-8 minutes, grilling for a total of about 30 minutes.  Keep an eye on the grill or grill pan temperature and adjust the heat accordingly to keep the chicken from burning.  Chicken is done when cooked to an internal temperature of 190 degrees.

Remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving (chicken is way too hot to handle- especially for children- if served immediately so please allow for the resting time).

Makes about 6 drumsticks.

Source: Diana Dishes original

tarragon chicken drumsticks grill

 

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